In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for the United States has dropped to 4.9%. While that's great news for potential job hunters, wage growth has stagnated over this period. In fact, the U.S. real median household income still remains below pre-recession levels.
If you're looking to be better than average, in addition to education and developing critical job skills, what state you call home has a large effect on your income level. With that in mind, here are America's 10 richest states (technically nine plus D.C.), according to the Census Bureau's data for median household income in 2014 dollars.
No. 10: California
Much has been written about California's huge economy, with many noting that the state would have the world's sixth-largest economy if it were an independent nation. The state comes in at No. 10 on this list because of its large population.
In addition to the in-demand technology economy in and around the greater Bay area, including San Francisco, the southern part of the state boasts a highly lucrative television and film industry in the Los Angeles area and a defense and military industry in San Diego.
According to the Census Bureau, California boasts a median family income for the state of $61,489, 15% above the United States figure of $53,482. Before you pack your bags for the Golden State, though, remember it's not perfect. The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the state has higher rates of unemployment and poverty than the United States as a whole, pointing to a bifurcated Californian economy.
No. 9: Virginia
The Old Dominion State comes in at No. 9, with a median household income figure of $64,792. Virginia's well-educated Northern Virginia workforce and the presence of high-paying federal government and government contracting jobs are a large reason for the state's above-average median income.
The southeastern part of the state also benefits from government spending, as the Newport News/Virginia Beach area has a high percentage of military bases and active-duty personnel.
In addition to boasting above-average income, Virginia's 4% unemployment rate is nearly one full percentage point lower than the U.S. average. Additionally, Virginia's 11.2% poverty rate is 2.3 percentage points lower than the U.S. average of 13.5%.
No. 8: New Hampshire
New Hampshire is the first New England state to make this list, but certainly not the last. The Granite State comes in at No. 8 on the list, with a median household income of $65,986.
New Hampshire's economy is a mix of old and new industries, with high levels of agriculture outputs alongside high-tech manufacturing and healthcare industries. Additionally, leisure and hospitality are major sources of employment for the sparsely populated state.
New Hampshire's median household income benefits from extremely low levels of unemployment. In the last BLS survey, the Census Bureau pegged New Hampshire's unemployment rate at 2.9%. 2 percentage points lower than the United States average. New Hampshire's poverty rate of 8.2% is nearly 40% lower than the United States' average and the lowest in the nation.
No. 7: Massachusetts
The second New England state on the list is Massachusetts. The Bay State benefits from its highly educated workforce, with the state claiming the highest percentage of people over 25 -- 40% -- with a bachelor's degree or higher. The state has its share of world-famous colleges and universities, with Harvard, MIT, Tufts University, and Wellesley College calling Massachusetts home.
Massachusetts' educated workforce is highly desired among employers, with 13 Fortune 500 companies across the industries of medical equipment, finance, and industrial calling the Bay State home.
In addition to its median household income of $67,846, Massachusetts boasts lower levels of poverty and unemployment than the United States overall. Additionally, Massachusetts scores high on other quality-of-life metrics, such as the aforementioned educational-attainment rate and a low percentage of uninsured residents.
No. 6: Hawaii
Hawaii may come as a surprise to many because of its tourism-heavy economy, but the median household income for the Aloha State is $68,201. In addition to tourism, the state has a robust agricultural economy, with pineapple, coffee, and sugar cane among the state's top exports.
But it's not all a vacation for Hawaii residents. According to CNBC's Top States for Business survey, Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, because of high taxes and shipping costs.
Like most states on this list, Hawaii boasts a lower unemployment rate than the United States' average, reporting 3.3% as of the last BLS report. Additionally, the state boasts a lower poverty level of 10.6%, although poverty-level methodology doesn't take into consideration Hawaii's high cost of living.
No. 5. District of Columbia
The District of Columbia places No. 5 on the list with a median household income of $69,235. I know it's not a state, and I'd say "sue me" in jest, but it's highly likely somebody in D.C. would do just that. A 2011 study of American Bar Association and census data found one in every 12 D.C. residents is a lawyer, versus one in 260 residents nationwide.
Unsurprisingly, the District boasts the most educated workforce, with 53% having a bachelor's degree or higher, higher than Massachusetts' 40% figure. Unfortunately, D.C. is a highly bifurcated city as it relates to income and wealth, with the poverty percentage coming in at 17.3%. Additionally, the poverty rate of 6.1% is higher than the national average.
No. 4: Connecticut
The third and final New England state on the list is Connecticut. The Constitution State boasts a median household income of $69,889. The state has a diversified economy, with finance and manufacturing paying residents above-average salaries.
Connecticut also benefits from its proximity to New York City, with many residents in the southern part of the state commuting into the Big Apple for work. Unsurprisingly, a large percentage of financial professionals and hedge fund managers call the state home.
In addition to traditional wealth metrics, Connecticut boasts high standards of living. Educational attainment, poverty, and insurance coverage are better than national averages. The biggest downside of the state is its higher-than-average tax burden. A study from WalletHub found Connecticut was the fourth worst state to be a taxpayer in.
No. 3: Alaska
Alaska's economy is heavily based on natural resources, specifically oil. According to the Energy Information Administration's June survey, Alaska is the fourth largest state by crude oil production. The combination of a high-paying industry alongside a small labor force is the reason the median household income in Alaska is $71,829.
Also helping Alaska is the Alaska Permanent Fund, a share of oil revenue produced in its state. The fund's individual payout is variable but totaled $2,072 in 2015. However, because of mismanaged state finances, the payout was cut to $1,022 in 2016.
The biggest drawback for Alaska is it shares Hawaii's fate as an expensive state on account of shipping costs.
No. 2: New Jersey
Although New Jersey has struggled in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the state has maintained its high per-capita median income, by reporting $72,062. New Jersey boasts a highly diversified economy, with 19 Fortune 500 companies, or nearly 4%, calling the state home.
Like many states on this list, New Jersey has a highly educated workforce, with 36% of adults over age 25 having a bachelor's degree or higher. The state also has lower-than-average poverty rates and uninsured residents.
One of the biggest drawbacks for the Garden State is its high level of taxes. According to WalletHub's survey, New Jersey ranks No. 10 in terms of average annual state and local taxes. This showing is keeping in line with many states in the Northeast that have higher tax burdens but rank higher on various standards-of-living metrics.
No. 1: Maryland
Maryland may come as a surprise to many, especially because the Old Line State boasts only four Fortune 500 companies, with none in the top 50, but its median family income of $74,149 tops in the nation. Like Northern Virginia, Maryland benefits from its proximity to Washington, D.C., with its high-paying government and contracting jobs.
A large percentage of Maryland's economy is in the defense, biotech, and aerospace industries, so understandably the state is highly educated, with 37.3% of adults having a bachelor's degree or higher. Maryland also ranks low on poverty, with its rate of 9.7% coming in second to New Hampshire and a low percentage of residents without medical insurance.
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